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East West Rail Green Party Position Statement

East West Rail Bedford
Bedford Green Party view on East West Rail.

Background:
The Government decided to build “East West Rail” between Oxford and Cambridge passing through Bedford Borough.
In 2009-10 there were plans to rebuild Bedford’s main station for East West Rail. Those didn’t involve demolishing any housing. The LibDem/Tory government cancelled them in 2010.
In Spring 2019 East West Rail (EWR) held public consultations on Bedford to Cambridge routes. In early 2020, Route E, travelling north and east from Bedford via Bedford’s main station, was selected.
In March 2021 the Government decided to drop plans for much of the OxCam Expressway road.
On 31 March 2021 EWR published consultation documents revealing around 30 properties are at risk of demolition in Ashburnham Road (on the railway side of Ashburnham Road between the current station entrance and Midland Road), contrary to previous assurances, and a similar number of properties north of Bromham Road.
Our position:
The Green Party is committed to social and ecological justice. We seek to minimise environmental impacts while benefitting as many people as possible, including removing threats of home demolitions.
It’s important to reduce total transport use while shifting from private road use to rail. Sustainable East-West connectivity is currently terrible, meaning over-reliance on roads. This causes high carbon emissions, air pollution and congestion. Shifting to rail for both passengers and freight is vital for environmental and social reasons. If East-West rail isn’t built, the more harmful OxCam Expressway will return.
We are angered by the Government’s decision not to electrify EWR. Electrification is far easier and cheaper to do from the start. It would enable renewable energy to power the entire route. Not to electrify is a shocking wasted opportunity.
The final decision won’t be perfect, but social benefits for people without cars mustn’t be lost because people in relatively privileged situations are worried about noise.
Demolitions should be minimised. Previous plans for station rebuilding didn’t require any in Ashburnham Road, so there’s no need for them now. Between Beverley Crescent and the Poets area, there’s enough land to fit six tracks in without threatening dozens of houses. East West Rail including Bedford station creates important opportunities for inter-regional connectivity, further reducing damaging road travel and emissions. Station rebuilding which reduces chances of demolitions north of the station will improve connectivity at Bedford from Leicester and Nottingham, by providing a fast line platform for southbound EMR trains.
Redeveloping Bedford station gives chances to reduce station car trips. There must be a comprehensive station travel plan providing excellent bus connections, safe cycle routes (and secure cycle parking) and ensuring people are safe walking there.
All five routes considered by the 2019 consultation were problematic. We aren’t committed to a particular route east of Bedford’s main station but enough funding must be found to avoid the worst consequences. However, a south-of-Bedford route would kill prospects of the promised Wixams station, which could greatly reduce car journeys by the growing population south of town.
Any resident would feel anxious with a large project near where they live, especially with unnecessary demolition threats. All large infrastructure can cause negative impacts, so it’s essential they’re minimised and gains, including biodiversity gains, are embedded. A Strategic Environmental Assessment of proposals to measure ecological and social impacts of the route is vital.
What next?
We urge residents to respond to the consultation which runs until 9 June. As Greens we’ll argue for extensive measures, including tunnels, to minimise impacts on urban Bedford, north Bedfordshire landscapes, and to ensure net biodiversity gain. We’re prepared to argue for options not currently offered.
The consultation is here
Do ask East West Rail detailed questions about your concerns here

East West Rail Bedford

16 thoughts on “East West Rail Green Party Position Statement

  1. They could always come through Flitwick on to Dunstable and join the guided bus way past both Luton the airport Parkway station and then onto the the old rail line off to Hitchin and continue on through Stevenage onto Cambridge.

  2. Interesting that the author assumes people concerned about noise are in a relatively privileged position to those without cars. Maybe the people concerned about noise are also concerned with the loss of their homes or gardens.

    The green councillors supported the motion for the railway route at the full borough council meeting regardless of the impact on vital green spaces.

    1. There was no public mention of risk of demolitions until last week, initially to some homes Poets which we, as Green councillors, were very surprised at and oppose. We absolutely believe that demolitions (as explained in this summary above) are unnecessary, both there and potentially south of the bridge too, on Ashburnham Road. We know that it’s utterly devastating for people to have the threat of demolition hanging over them. And it’s not needed.
      Also it’s worth sharing the motion at Council a few weeks ago to be clear about what we supported:
      Council notes:
      1. That the decision on the preferred route corridor has been taken, by the East West Rail Company and the government, following a public consultation and engagement process in 2019.
      2. Bedford Borough Council promoted the public consultation to local residents, including making clear its preferred route, supported by all parties on the Council.
      3. The Council’s preference for the route of East West rail to pass through Bedford Midland station is long established, including through local development scheme documents dating back to 2011, and throughout the Local Plan 2030 plan-making process. These processes included extensive, repeated rounds of public consultation.
      4. The Council’s preference is based on many reasons, including the £6.23m (12%) greater annual economic benefit of a Bedford Midland route over a route to the south of the town, and the greater number of Bedford Borough residents who will benefit from the work and leisure opportunities presented by East West Rail.
      5. East West Railway Company concluded that the preferred route “delivers the best value for the taxpayer, returning the most benefit for every pound spent” and “It was the most popular option with people who responded to our consultation” and finally that “It delivers the best opportunities for the environment.”
      6. The selection of a route via Bedford has enabled progress to be made on the much-needed Wixams station, while a southern route would have likely been fatal to it.
      7. A new consultation on the route alignment is expected from the East West Railway Company in the next few weeks.

      Council resolves that the Executive is asked:

      a. To maintain Bedford Borough Council’s commitment to work to minimise the disruption to local residents and the natural environment during the construction and operation of East West Rail.
      b. To promote the East West Railway Company’s forthcoming public consultation on the alignment of the line between Bedford and Cambridge, and to encourage Bedford Borough residents to take part.
      c. To lobby for the full electrification of the railway, including recognising the benefits of a quieter electrified railway.”

  3. In response to the points you raised on the Council Notes:
    1. BBC has had a massive influence on the route selection, spending public money on consultants to give them the answer they wanted. The first report from Kilborn recommended the Southern routes. The second gave the value engineered response. BBC keep deferring blame, but Cllr Headley is on the board of EWR consortium, The Mayor SEMLEP and EEH. Those Cllrs celebrated “great lobbying” when the announcement was made – without understanding the consequences to the town. They need to be held to account. I can provide both the Kilborn reports to you. Which, by the way, only emerging 6 months after the consultation through an FOI request by a Borough Councillor.

    2. BBC keep saying there was a massive media campaign – looking back to the consultation in 2019 there are about 3 social media messages from the Mayor, Cllr Headley and Cllr Vann. The Bedford Independent ran an article on 10th March 2019 in the Mayor’s column – the consultation closed 1 day later on the 11th March. None of the consultation events were held anywhere in the route E zone. The event in Bedford didn’t even have an address on the notification. This hardly constitutes a massive media campaign.

    4. The £6.23m 12% incremental benefit to annual GVA of going North through Bedford is embarrassingly small. Cllr Headley fails to put this into context. The total GVA of Bedford in 2018 was about £4.8 BILLION. It is therefore only 0.13% uplift. These calculations did not include the devastating news of the homes destroyed or the disruption that will be caused by remodelling bridges etc. This must be back checked.

    5. EWR’s analysis was based on costs that were engineered during the consultation process, with 4 other routes inflating by 50% – 80%, but route E by only 9%. EWR have failed to explain the change in costs despite being asked many times. They are not being transparent.

    6. BBC are now talking about a Southern station anyway!

    Whilst I appreciate you and Cllr Foley were not in post in 2019 – there has been a complete lack of transparency from EWR all the way along. The Mayor and Cllr Headley have been pursuing this without being held to account.

    As Kilborn says to BBC in their first report the Southern routes are flatter, straighter, 7km shorter and simpler – destroying fewer homes and more environmentally friendly. The vast majority the economic benefit to the Borough (by BBC’s own calculations then – and I would argue it is more now) are available on Southern routes. It is the common sense option – and EWR should be challenged as to why they are not delivering this.

    1. “the points you raised on the Council Notes”
      These were the words of a council motion that we didn’t write. We had NO say at all in the wording of that motion, but were presented with a simple take-it-or-leave-it decision on the wording as a whole.

      If you have an issue with the words used and the case behind them, you need to take that up with those who proposed the motion, not us.

      We are now concentrating on supporting the residents of Bedford – including very many in Castle Ward who are threatened with demolition.

  4. I’m truly staggered and angry at your continued misrepresentation of the truth. I always thought the Green Party stood up for the environment, wildlife, pollution reduction etc. After listening to the Councillors at the zoom meeting, it was obvious that no matter what was said by the members of the public you would ignore and dismiss any evidence that did not suit your purpose. Destroying miles of beautiful countryside alone should have you up in arms in disgust, but maybe the Greens are no longer the party they claim to be. Taking your list of assertions one by one
    1) There was not a proper consultation with the public, especially those affected. 120.000 alleged postcards between Cambridge and Oxford, with only 7,000 (dodgy figures even if accepted ) responses from the entire route. Do you really think that is a thorough consultation and an acceptable response to base the preferred route on? EWR may be the ones who chose the preferred route, but it was the council who influenced the choice by saying they wanted the route to go through Bedford Midland. Like many others I have not received a local paper in years, did not receive a postcard, saw no invite to a consultation and only heard about any of this a few weeks ago.
    2) Is patently untrue. The lack of consultation is evident by the fact everyone who is affected has had no knowledge of this until recently. Furthermore repeated enquiries to EWR has failed to receive information on what area’s they sent the postcards . Their avoidance of a straight answer to a straight question makes politicians look honest. Now they blame Royal Mail as they supposedly chose where to post the postcards.
    3) Again so untrue. Are you trying to tell residents that for 10 years there has been all this information out there, yet no one has heard anything about it until now? I commuted for six of these years and not once did I see or hear anything about an E-W line coming through Bedford Midland. Please provide all the details of where and when this public consultation took place and how many people attended. If you’re so sure of this statement you must have all these facts and figures to back up this statement.
    4) This figure of £6.23 million (12% GAE) is another pie in the sky fantasy figure. You were provided with actual facts at the Council Zoom meeting, yet you knowing spout misinformation to fit your agenda. £6.23 million as a percentage of the gross financial budget is actually 0.13% uplift in benefit. The destruction of the houses and businesses alone makes this bullet point of your’s an insult to all those poor households who will lose their properties.
    5) I can’t believe you have actually written this one. In 2018 EWR concluded that the Northern route was not a viable route and that the obvious route would have to be via the south. Once the council intervened and said they wanted it to go through Bedford, all of a sudden it becomes the preferred route. Again miraculously it goes from the second worst option for the environment and cost, to the best and cheapest option when asked to re-evaluate after council sponsored pressure. Explain how after the re-evaluation routes D & E are so far apart in increased costs, when they are for a large part in the same location, with route E only rising by 9%?
    6) As councillors you and the rest of the council should be ashamed of yourselves re Wixams. It was promised that the area would get a station. The fact it hasn’t should not now be used as a means of blackmailing Wixam councillors into voting for route E otherwise their residents won’t get the station. The fact you allowed Wixams to expand and not hold those responsible to the promise made, shows how incompetent the Council is. You had the opportunity to withhold planning for further development until the station was built, but instead allowed the promise to be ignored.
    7) I have engaged with the latest consultation or should I say as far as I’m concerned the first consultation. However I am not happy with it’s content. Where is the option to say this is not what I want. I want all options A-E to be looked at in a transparent way, where those on each route can be properly consulted and all financial and environmental impacts assessed on an equal basis. This is like voting on how you would like to be murdered when you want to live.
    One last comment I would like to add. I saw a comment from Councillor Foley that said something like “I have seen latest detail on the route and it’s impact and it won’t affect my residents” so that’s alright then. From that statement alone I’m glad he’s not my councillor, not that I want Roydon or Rider either

  5. “Taking your list of assertions one by one”
    These were the words of a council motion that we didn’t write. We had NO say at all in the wording of that motion, but were presented with a simple take-it-or-leave-it decision on the wording as a whole.

    If you have an issue with the words used and the case behind them, you need to take that up with those who proposed the motion, not us.

    We are now concentrating on supporting the residents of Bedford – including very many in Castle Ward who are threatened with demolition.

    1. councillor Foley, I am astounded at you lack of research and understanding on the decisions that led us here and lobbying that’s has taken place to drive this route forward. I am also astonished at the lack of understanding of the grossly understated environmental impacts to the north Bedfordshire countryside and the residents of Bedford that will be impacted by the massive civil engineering works which involve cutting out a number of hillsides due to the unfavourable gradients. The unsightly and imposing concrete viaducts to support diesel freight movements (initially 20 every 24hr in each direction) impacting noise and air quality standards. This all to enable expansion and development of new homes in the northern green belt as confirmed by BBC in all their responses to the consultation, which they failed to openly disseminate to the electorate. So if this is the vision that the Green party wish to support, how do you call yourselves green! Also worth noting the traffic impact to Bedford as outlined in the BBC traffic report which claims Bedford will see 3 fold increase in congestion and will negate the £8.8M upgrade to the bus station and the need to demolish the existing bridges which have just spent 18 months of major upgrades.

  6. I think the national Green Party should look very hard at this statement and the potential prejudice it demonstrates.

    “Social benefits for people without cars mustn’t be lost because people in relatively privileged positions are worried about noise.’

    This statement clearly indicates an implicit disdain for those living outside the town, assuming they are all somehow ‘privileged’ – presumably whether or not they own a car? This is a shocking, for the Green Party to show such disrespect for what should be a core voter group is amazing. Very many rural residents affected by this railway are a long way from being ‘privileged’ (if by that you actually mean ‘affluent’?) just as many urban Bedford residents might also be classed as ‘privileged’ by the authors of this statement?

    1. Many of us, including myself, live in North Beds villages, so we do not have disdain for people in villages, we do however recognise that we are in a privileged position. My parents had a work ethic and encouraged my education so I did well, others do not have these advantages.
      What we also have is a sense of responsibility for everyone. Balancing the needs of the many is a difficult task and because you feel that the Green Party on this occasion doesn’t represent you, doesn’t mean you are being oppressed, it means that they are considering all needs equally. If that feels like disdain, well that is unfortunate.

  7. Obviously you have other agendas .
    Maybe you have been denied all sorts of benefits in your time .
    Are you really a member of the Green Party , has a farmer or some high privileged gents upset you in the past .
    Your choice of words ,privileged .Did you honestly believe that when you wrote it .
    Have you been dealt a bad card in your life do people who have amassed great wealth upset you.
    Before you spout your poison and generalise why not find out where the word derives from .
    You will probably find most of the people in fore mentioned villages work really hard to maintain a certain way of life , maybe you should try it.
    Always worked mostly 7 days a week always tried until two heart attacks stopped me for a while .
    I’ve spent any savings and equity from a sold london home into this supposedly forever home . Back to work full time now so when I read your privileged piece you really have stirred a few emotions enough to want to meet you face to face even at my age .
    If we want to shout out about trains passing our homes or through our garden s & stop it no little person like yourself will stop it
    .
    Green Party Really

    1. I don’t think personal insults aimed at councillors, who not only maintain jobs or businesses but work very hard for a very small stipend to support local residents and communities is entirely necessary (implying they are lazy while attacking them for doing a very demanding role for little remuneration is a little rich don’t you think?). I am sure if you worked as hard as they do for such little money as a councillor, you’d do a much better job. But you don’t. We are happy to debate what is obviously an emotional subject, but please keep a civil tone.

  8. Cllr Foley, I realise these are the council’s words – not yours. However you and Cllr Bywater both voted in favour of it – without taking into account the negative environmental impact Route E has in comparison to Southern Routes.

    Also, as many have stated, there is growing evidence of a flawed consultation process in 2019.

    It is unrealistic to expect the LibDem majority to hold themselves to account – because of their sycophantic adoration of the Mayor.

    I think the point people are making is we expect a more principled stance from the Green Party.

    1. We did take account of negative environmental impacts. We were aware that ALL routes have negative environmental impacts, and also that failure to build East West Rail would massively strengthen the case for an even-more-destructive “expressway”. We are delighted that progress towards East West Rail has removed most of the threat of the environmental destruction that would have come from that new motorway.
      We are happy to argue for departures from all of the current nine proposed route options in the current consultation where they are particularly valuable to reduce environmental impacts. If you have particular locations you are concerned about please do let us know.
      You are right to expect a principled stance from the Green Party, but clearly the principles by which we are working are not matching your interests on this particular occasion. That does not stop it being a principled stance, it just means we disagree.

  9. Thank you for making this position clearer, and thank you to Councillors Lucy Bywater and Ben Foley for engaging with the comments here.

    Because route E goes through more undeveloped, wild and agricultural countryside land than the southern routes, it is, by definition the more environmentally damaging route. Within just a few miles of the route leaving current mainline it passes by three ancient woodlands: Crabtree Spinney and Helen’s Wood, near the Clapham Road, and Clapham Park Wood. While the route doesn’t go directly through these woodlands, it passes so close to them that the line (and its construction) will substantially damage their ecosystems and destroy the habitats of the species that thrive around them.

    The Green Party 2019 manifesto (page 57) states:

    “Our countryside is a precious resource – a home for people and wildlife, a source of employment, a place of enjoyment for those who visit its wealth of landscapes. It is vital for our common health, prosperity and wellbeing.”

    “Yet this national treasury is under threat. The amount of farmland, woodland and forest destroyed by development has grown by nearly 60% in recent years, whilst over 10,000 miles of footpaths have been blocked, built over or allowed to fall out of use….”

    “It’s time for an approach that recovers, rebuilds, restores, regenerates and reinstates nature and the health of our countryside.”

    I find the Bedford Green Party opinion that all five routes from the 2019 consultation were “problematic”and that they “aren’t committed to a particular route east” to be impossible to square with environmental destruction that a route north of Bedford involves. Given that this environmental destruction is greater in a route north of Bedford than south of Bedford, and given the Green Party’s manifesto commitment to protecting the countryside, I strongly believe the Bedford Green Party should be saying that northern routes are more “problematic” than southern ones, and they should be more committed to the less environmentally damaging southern routes.

    By taking their current stance, the Bedford Green Party right now seem to contradict their 2019 manifesto and seem to be indifferent to environmental destruction. As someone who has previously voted for the Green Party in Bedford, this depresses me no end.

    1. You claim “it is, by definition the more environmentally damaging route.” It might be on your definitions, but there are multiple ways of assessing environmental damage.
      The official assessment was that there were particular spots on the southern routes that were more sensitive than any that the northern routes would go through.

      While it may bet true that “the route [proposed]…passes by three ancient woodlands” as you yourself admit “the route doesn’t go…through these woodlands”. Our information is that, at those points the planned route will actually be passing through land covered in monocultures, which must be the least sensitive types of land use short of post-industrial wastelands, and which itself is a type of land use that is at least as unsuitable next to ancient woodland as rail use (which will have relatively wild land on either side of the track).

      To claim that infrastructure should not be built through land covered in monocultures is effectively to say that it infrastructure shouldn’t be built at all. While we are generally suspicious of infrastructure proposals, we are far more concerned about roadbuilding proposals that have far more harmful consequences, and generally far less chance of positive consequences. We note in this respect that the progress on East-West Rail was a significant part of the reasoning for dropping of the proposals for a new motorway (“OxCam Expressway”) between Bedford and Oxford.

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